WHEN Massimiliano Giaccardi took over from Roberto Piazza as Qatar’s coach after last year’s FIVB World League in June. he had a specific target — to take them into their maiden Olympics at Tokyo in 2020.
The fact that Giaccardi did not set any short-term goals says a lot about his plans in the long run.
The 43-year-old took over from his mentor, who was signed by Italian giants Modena Volley.
Having worked mostly as assistant coach with clubs in his native Italy, Romania and Greece, Giaccardi needed time to build a strong unit.
After completing a year in office, Giaccardi feels the team is making good progress as was evident last week when Qatar competed in FIVB World League’s preliminary round in Barcelona, Spain, where they beat strong teams like Greece.
“I didn’t know what to expect because we didn’t have any friendly matches during the preparation. It was our first game, so I was a little scared, but we had trained well. On the court, we tried hard and achieved our goal,” said Giaccardi after his team beat Greece 25-20, 25-23, 25-21 in the match held at the Pavello de la Vall d’Hebron.
Though Qatar lost the next match 21-25, 25-21, 15-25, 13-25 to the hosts, they gave their best against an opponent whom they were playing for the first time.
And as they eye bigger competitions ahead including the 2018 World Championship to be jointly hosted by Italy and Bulgaria, Giaccardi believes the experience of playing against stronger opponents will hold them in good stead.
“Our intention is to play well against quality opposition. If we play well, we can challenge anyone. We knew from the beginning that it would be a tough game against Spain.
“They’ve good players who adapt well in any situation. I’m sure Qatar have benefited immensely from competing in the FIVB World League for two consecutive years,” he added.
Qatar are a competent side in Asia. They had their best finish of fourth at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. At the Asian Championship, their best-ever performance was a fourth-place finish in Iran.
But at the international level, they are yet to prove their mettle. Giaccardi opined that lack of opportunities was hurting the team.
Apart from the World League, Qatar have never made the cut for any other FIVB events.
“You improve only by playing against strong teams and for that you need exposure. Now we’ve competed in the FIVB World League for two years in a row. The next target I’ve in my mind is the 2018 Worlds. We should work towards that.
“And then Tokyo 2020. That’s the ultimate challenge. If we can keep this level of playing, then I see no reason why we can’t achieve our twin goals,” Giaccardi concluded.